VO2 Maximum - What It Is and How To Calculate

VO2 Maximum - What It Is and How To Calculate / Exercises

Good physical conditioning is fundamental to physical exercise, but what many people do not know is that attention to breathing and the role of oxygen is indispensable for a better quality of physical activity.

Our main focus should not only be with the choice of exercises, but above all, with our state of health, because it is in this factor that we can highlight the maximum VO2, which is the term used to refer to the amount of oxygen that our body can store.

Who has never heard recommendations to inhale and breathe out during the execution of some movements? Well, it may seem unnecessary, but a correct breathing can be the differential for a more successful exercise. Each organism has a particular amount of oxygen storage, so we will better understand what is the maximum VO2, and what are its main characteristics.

Which is?

The maximum VO2 equals the maximum oxygen consumption. It can be characterized as a factor capable of determining the ability and preparation of an athlete to sustain some exercises and aerobic activities. The term refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can use during high intensity exercises. What you do not know is that the Maximum VO2 can be measured as "millimeters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight of each."

As stated above, it is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise. It is a combination of how much oxygen your lungs can store, convert to the bloodstream, then being pumped throughout your body, to your heart, and finally how efficiently your muscles can consume and convert the oxygen to use. Oxygen is the most critical component to running a fast-paced exercise, your maximum VO2 is the best measure of your running fitness.

This measurement is usually considered the best indicator regarding the cardiovascular fitness of athletes and physically active people, especially in aerobic activities. Theoretically, being higher than the amount of oxygen used in high intensity exercises, the higher will be (ATP) energy produced by you.

It is worth noting that VO2 Maximum can not be confused with the lactate threshold (LT), or anaerobic threshold (LA), which refers to the exhaustive moment and exercises that accumulate lactate in the muscles. With proper training, athletes can become able to substantially increase their ATP and thus increase the intensity of their training gradually.

The abbreviation VO2 maximum

The V in VO2 represents the volume, but not just as an amount. It also represents a "how much" rate there is over a given period of time. O2 refers simply to the chemical formula of oxygen.

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Your body has several VO2 rates. A rate is your resting rate, which is the amount of oxygen it uses when you are at rest, and there are rates for VO2 during exercise.

How to calculate the value of your maximum VO2?

Measuring the maximum VO2 requires physical exertion, usually done on a treadmill or bicycle. The procedure should be done within a laboratory with sports support. These tests are expensive and are not really necessary except for professional runners who strive to make incremental improvements and need a level of accuracy for results. It is recommended to follow protocols that involve specific increases in the speed and intensity of the exercises and the collection and measurement of the volume and concentration of oxygen of the exhaled and inspired air. This analysis determines how much oxygen the athlete is using during physical activity.

The oxygen consumption of an athlete rises in a linear relation with the intensity of the exercise. There is a specific point where there are 'plateaus' of oxygen consumption, even if the intensity of the exercise increases, that is, exactly in this respect we can identify the maximum VO2.

There is a point that can be considered painful in the measurement of maximal VO2, which is the moment of transition between aerobic metabolism for anaerobic metabolism. This moment does not occur long before muscle fatigue, so the athlete stops exercising.

Calculating the maximum VO2 can take the time from 10 to 15 minutes, and requires that the athlete be fully motivated and rested to endure the pain according to the time long enough to find the actual maximum VO2 value.

It is possible to estimate the calculations using a variety of protocols used to estimate the maximum VO2. Among them, we can highlight the Bruce Test treadmill, but it is said that no procedure is as accurate as the direct test.

People who are not professional athletes can opt for a simple test called the "One Mile Walk Test" to determine our maximum VO2. That's right, start walking slowly and increase speed gradually until you reach a fast speed. For accuracy, it is recommended that you perform this test on your local race track. The default range is 400 m for 1 turn, so it is equal to 4 turns of 1600m or 1 mile.

Here are the steps to this test: 

  1. Walk exactly one mile as fast as you can without overcharging or running. Think about Olympic walking speed and try to maintain it.
  2. Note the time in seconds it will take to complete the distance.
  3. Immediately after completion, check the heart rate for 15 seconds and multiply by four to get your heart rate.
  4. You can enter the values ​​found in a virtual calculator that will help in identifying the final value of your maximum VO2. There are numerous options, try this V02 Max calculator.

Interpreting your maximum VO2 results 

You can choose the options according to your personal characteristics, so it will identify your particular maximum VO2. It is rarely possible to identify the maximum VO2 of advanced athletes through the simple test.

Can you change your VO2 Max? 

Some research shows that although VO2 Maximum has a genetic component, it can also be increased through stimuli. The two methods for increasing maximal VO2 include increases in volume and intensity of training. Research also indicates that the less oxygen a person has, the more oxygen they can raise their maximum VO2.

In fact, novice athletes have been able to increase VO2 max by up to 20% through proper training. Athletes in form have more difficulty in raising their maximum VO2, probably because they are already closer to their genetic potential.

In addition to genetic factors, three other components have a major influence on maximal VO2:

  • Age: Although it varies widely, mainly due to individual programs and stimuli, in general the maximum VO2 is higher in the age group of 20 years, and reduces up to 30% when it reaches 65 years.
  • Gender: Many renowned athletes have higher VO2 values ​​higher than most men. But this occurs due to differences in body size and composition, blood volume and hemoglobin content. A woman has, in general, a VO2 maximum 20% lower than that of a man.
  • Height: Higher athletes will have less oxygen, on average 5% less than maximum VO2.

V02 Max High and Low

The results vary greatly. The mean for a sedentary individual is about 35 ml / kg / min. High-intensity athletes often reach an average of 70 ml / kg / min. One of the highest recorded VO2 peak scores (90 ml / kg / min) was a skier. Cyclist Lance Armstrong reached VO2 max at 85 ml / kg / min.

Does a high peak VO2 mean better athletic performance? 

Most athletes of medium and high intensity will have maximum VO2 well well in excess of 60 ml / kg / min, and this number alone is not a guarantee of excellence in physical performance. A high VO2 max can indicate an athlete's potential for excellent aerobic endurance, but many other factors can determine the winner of a particular race. Below you will learn some of these factors:

  • Skills Training;
  • Psychological preparation;
  • Lactate threshold formation;
  • Rest and Recovery;
  • Nutrition.

VO2 maximum during the race 

When starting to run, your muscles will begin to work above the maximum VO2 rate of rest. As a result, they naturally need more fuel to sustain this increased activity. Your body will require more oxygen so your breathing becomes progressively faster and deeper, as well as increasing the pace of your run.

When you start exercising, your VO2 rate will increase and will continue to increase to a point where you will not be able to increase more. That way, the faster you run, the higher your particular VO2 maximum rate will be.

Below is a graphical representation of maximum VO2 variation during runs:

Have you ever heard of VO2 max? Do you know anyone who has already calculated their own? Have you calculated yours yet? Comment below!